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6 Movies like Kingdom of Heaven: Sword and Sandal Epics

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tom_cropperIf you like great sprawling epics, then you’ll love these extravaganzas.~ Tom Cropper

Big Movies and Epic Themes

“Be without fear in the face of your enemies, safeguard the helpless even if it leads to your death.”

Hollywood used to do this kind of thing very well. You cast your mind back to olden times, gather up as many extras as possible, stick weapons in their hands and let loose. These were great epics which could take the best part of an afternoon, but somewhere along the line we seemed to forget about them.
Then Kingdom of Heaven came along in which we see Orlando Bloom play a blacksmith who learns he’s got a big estate to inherit in the Holy Land. The trouble is that by doing so he’s getting himself into a whole lot of hot water with the Muslims and their leader, Saladin.
A great one for history buffs while the rest of us will just enjoy the big set piece battles, but at the end of it all, what other similar movies can we find out there?
Here are a few movies like Kingdom of Heaven which you might enjoy.

Movies Similar to ‘Kingdom of Heaven’…

‘Gladiator’ (Ridley Scott, 2000)

“I will have my vengeance in this life or the next ”

Years before he set his sights on Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott brought the old sword and sandal epics back to the big screen with Gladiator (check out some great similar movies here). Russell Crowe was the general who became a slave, and then a Gladiator who took on an emperor.

The result is one of those great popcorn-munching films that we all thought Hollywood had forgotten how to make.

Big on action, big on drama – in fact it’s just big full stop.

‘Alexander’ (Oliver Stone, 2004)

“Fortune favours the bold”

This didn’t get much of a reception when it came out, which many put down to the fact either to the outrageous Irish accents or the homosexual undertone. For the record, there’s no undertone at all. This film couldn’t be camper if they broke out in song before each battle.

But it’s the best recreation of Alexander the Great we’ve seen yet, which is about time because if anyone was crying out for a good movie, it was him.

A fantastic visual achievement and a long overdue movie for history’s greatest general.

‘El Cid’ (Anthony Mann, 1961)

“Among our people we have a word for a warrior with the vision to be just”

Let’s take some time to mention Charlton Heston in full epic mode. Whether it’s Spartacus or this epic romp, a Sunday afternoon isn’t complete without one of these.

This is a biopic about the famous Spanish knight who defended Spain against the Moors. However, what everyone really remembers about this movie is the climactic final scene. In fact, fast forward through the rest of it and just watch the last half hour.

A bit old-fashioned to be sure, but this comes from the time when they really knew how to do an epic.

‘King Arthur’ (Antoine Fuqua, 2004)

“The untold story that inspired a legend.”

Despite focusing on a popular mythical legend, King Arthur actually makes an attempt at historical accuracy here by portraying King Arthur – of Camelot and Sword in the Stone fame – as he might actually have been. Here, we see him as a centurion guarding Britain from the incoming Saxons during the dying days of the Roman empire.

It’s a great attempt to inject some realism into the legend, even if it’s a bit of a stretch to believe Keira Knightley could cut it as a Celtic warrior.

Massively underrated upon release, but well worth a go.


If You like ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, You Will like…

So, there’s enough to keep you going for a while, but once you get through that lot, why don’t you try some other movies like Kingdom of Heaven. They might not have the same roots in history, but they still shouldn’t be missed.

‘Lord of the Rings’ (Peter Jackson, 1999)

“One Ring to Rule them all…”

Even though this is set in a fictional world of Middle Earth, this has so much realism that you can be forgiven for thinking you’re watching the real thing.

We all know the story – a bunch of hobbits have some old jewellery that needs to be disposed of. They could just jump on an eagle and be done with the whole thing by tea time, but for reasons unknown to anyone, they decide to walk the whole way.

A great visual spectacle which will really have you believing in Elves, Orcs and Dwarfs .

‘Robin Hood’ (Ridley Scott, 2010)

“Rise and rise again until lambs become lions”

This reimagining of Robin Hood went through a few iterations. For a start, we were initially going to see the Sheriff as the good guy and Robin Hood as possibly being the villain. In the end, what we got was a pretty conventional Robin Hood movie, even if he’s showing his age being played by Russell Crowe. Even so, this is a great movie as we see Robin take on King John, the French, and the Magna Carta all in one go.

If you were turned off by Kevin Costner’s attempt, then this should persuade you to give the men in tights another go.


Time to Do Battle

Epic movies such as these are notoriously difficult to get right. However, for me, these are a rare collection of movies that manage to do it.
You may have some other similar movies – in which case, we’d love to hear about them.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
These days Tom Cropper is normally found writing about money and ethical issues and finance for people like Go Compare and the Guardian. However, he started his career many years ago writing about film for a small and sadly defunct indie paper called the Soho Independent. Since then he’s written for various movie websites and, when he’s not trying to explain the nuances of insurance to people spends his time trying to dig out obscure movies from far flung parts of the world.
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